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Willard S. Wilson films and ephemera

1913-1977
 Collection
Identifier: 1977-219

Abstract

Willard S. Wilson (1897-1979) was a pioneer radio broadcaster and entrepreneur. He was founder of the first commercial radio station in Delaware. This small collection of newspaper clippings, articles, notes, and ephemera document Wilson's knowledge about the history of radio and some of his accomplishments related to the radio station WHAV/WDEL. There are also three reels of film, two related to aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) and one documenting the arrival of a monument at Wilmington, Delaware marine terminal.

Dates

  • 1913-1977

Creator

Extent

0.5 Linear Feet

General Physical Description

11 items. 3 reels : si., b&w ; 16mm. 1 scrapbook : marbled hardcover ; 7 x 8 in. (closed). Containing 54 newspaper clippings. 1 wiring drawing. 1 list of engagements. 1 list of expenses.

Biographical Note

Willard S. Wilson (1897-1979) was a pioneer radio broadcaster and entrepreneur. He was founder of the first commercial radio station in Delaware. Wilson became interested in radio (which was called “wireless” until the 1920s) as early as twelve years old. In 1909, he received his first 2-way wireless contract. In 1912, he obtained a first class commercial license as a wireless operator. He graduated high school in 1914.

From 1914 to 1916 he worked as a wireless operator at sea for the Dorchester line which carried cargo and passengers from Philadelphia to Savannah and Jacksonville. During World War I, he was on active duty in the United States Naval Reserve Forces as a radio operator for naval ships. When he returned to civilian life after the war he opened the Wilmington Electrical Specialty Company which manufactured and distributed radio apparatus.

In 1922, he established the first commercial broadcast station in Delaware, WHAV. Wilson operated the station out of his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He was announcer, chief engineer, and played piano accompaniment. The station broadcasted daily from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. In 1927, when aviator Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974) visited Wilmington, Delaware, the event, including Lindbergh’s remarks were broadcast on the radio station.

The call letters were changed to WDEL in 1928. Wilson sold the station in the early 1930s to the Steinman Group of Lancaster, Pennsylvania for fifty thousand dollars. He continued to own and operate his store.

During World War II, Wilson was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF), in the CBI theatre of operations.

Wilson was married to Elsa “Elsie” S. (Brown) Wilson (1898-?) and the couple had three sons: Robert S. Wilson (1924-1998?), Willard S. Wilson Jr. (1925-?), and Louis N. Wilson (1928-?).

Scope and Content

This small collection of newspaper clippings, articles, notes, and ephemera document Wilson's knowledge about the history of radio and some of his accomplishments related to the radio station WHAV/WDEL. The newspaper clippings are assembled in a scrapbook and are about WHAV/WDEL and various events, mostly dances that they hosted. There is a booklet commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of WDEL, an article and a speech written by Wilson about the early history of radio. There is one newspaper clipping about Wilson's career and accomplishments.

There are also three reels of film, two of which were shot by Wilson himself, as he was amateur filmographer. One film is of Charles Lindbergh's 1927 visit to Wilmington in which Lindbergh spoke briefly and the event was broadcast on the WHAV/WDEL radio station. The second film by Wilson is of the arrival of the Swedish monument in the Wilmington Marine Terminal during the Tercentenary celebration in 1938 of the first colonization of Delaware by the Swedes. The monument is a statue of the Kalmar Nyckel ship designed by sculpter Carl Milles (1875-1955). The event was attended by Swedish royalty and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945). The third film is a newsreel about Charles Lindbergh and his flight across the atlantic.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Material

Oral histories on work and daily life in the Brandywine Valley (Accession 1970.370), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware oral history collection (MSS 179), Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Willard S. Wilson films and ephemera
Status:
Online
Author:
Laurie Sather
Date:
2017
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400